West Bengal panchayat elections Highlights: Derek O’Brien says death toll in poll violence ‘now closer to normal’

West Bengal panchayat elections saw a voter turnout of 72.5% till 5 pm even as violence hit several areas in the state killing at least 15 people. Below are the highlights.
A vehicle set on fire after clashes between two political parties at Shantipur in Nadia district on Monday.(PTI Photo)
A vehicle set on fire after clashes between two political parties at Shantipur in Nadia district on Monday.(PTI Photo)
Updated on May 14, 2018 11:26 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Kolkata/New Delhi | ByHT Correspondent

At least 15 persons were killed were killed and several injured during the West Bengal panchayat elections as clashes broke out at several places between rival groups on Monday.

Ballot boxes were seen being set afire and thrown in a pond. In one constituency, a man poured water in a ballot box.

The Trinamool Congress (TMC) has already won 20,163 of the total 58,692 seats unopposed— a record since the Panchayati Raj was introduced.

West Bengal panchayat elections Highlights:

10.01pm: Poll still underway at Sahudangi hut polling station in Jalpaiguri.

7.12pm: Voter turnout in West Bengal panchayat poll till 5 pm is 72.5%, reports ANI.

6.38 pm: CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury dismisses the remarks of Derek O’ Brien that violence occurred during the Left rule too, saying if that was true, Mamata Banerjee would never have come to power in the state.

This itself shows that they are defensive and guilty. Media is showing what is happening. If this was happening during Left Front rule, then the TMC government would never have come in Bengal and the chief minister would not have been the chief minister of Bengal: CPI(M) general secretary Yechury.

He also says the West Bengal State Election Commission will be seen as complicit in the ruling Trinamool Congress’ “project of destroying democracy” if it does not act to restore faith in the electoral process.

6.00 pm: TMC leader Derek O’ Brien accuses CPI(M) and BJP of attacking Trinamool workers and “deliberately trying to foment trouble.”

5.50 pm: TMC lawmaker Derek O’Brien says around 400 people were killed in poll violence under CPM rule in Bengal and compares it to 2003 panchayat polls when 40 people died in the state.

5.00pm: Home ministry seeks report from the West Bengal government on the violence during panchayat election in the state.

4.32 pm: Another person killed in violence during panchayat elections.

Krishnapada Sarkar, 63, was clobbered to death in Tehatta in Nadia district.

4.18 pm: CPI(M) member Biman Bose, who is present at the protest, says, “Election has turned into a commotion because no rules were followed.”

“Police could not strengthen the security. That is why we have come here to speak to the Election Commission to find a solution,” says Bose.

4.16 pm:Members of CPI(M), Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) and other parties of the Left Front stage protest outside State Election Commission against the incidents of violence during panchayat elections.

4.00pm: Overall 56% polling recorded till 3 pm in West Bengal, reports ANI.

3.15pm: As West Bengal votes in the panchayat elections, at least 10 people have been killed in violence across the state since Sunday midnight. Here is the list of casualties:

Apu Manna and Yogeswar Ghosh, who were standing in a queue to cast their votes in a booth of Hashchara of Nandigram II block, were shot dead allegedly by motorcycle-borne youth, who asked them to leave the spot.

Shahin Sheikh, 26, was shot dead in Patikabari gram panchayat area in Nawda of Murshidabad district.

Sanjit Pramanik, 27, was killed in Santipur of Nadia district after he sustained bullet injuries in his chest and abdomen. He died in the hospital.

A youth, Taibur Gayen, was killed when crude bombs were hurled at them allegedly by ruling party supporters at Amdanga in North 24 Parganas district.

In Kultali of South 24 Parganas, a Trinamool Congress supporter Ariful Gazi was shot dead allegedly by SUCI supporters when he was going to a booth.

In Beldanga of Murshidabad, Tapan Mondal, a BJP worker, was killed when he was hit by bombs. He was going to a booth to cast his vote.

Debu Das and his wife Uma Das in Budhakhali gram panchayat in Namkhana of South 24 Parganas district were burnt to death allegedly by Trinamool supporters.

A Trinamool Congress supporter, Bhola Dafadar, was killed in Nakashipara of Nadia when he was returning from the booth after casting his vote.

2.50pm: Congress workers hold protest outside Election Commission in Kolkata.

2.45pm: Ballot boxes have allegedly been looted at gunpoint at booths in Murshidabad, ANI reports.

2.38pm: 41.51% voter turnout has been recorded till 1pm in West Bengal.

2.35pm: Violence in North Dinajpur.

1.20pm: CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury says the West Bengal State Election Commission will be seen as complicit in the ruling Trinamool Congress’ “project of destroying democracy” if it does not act to restore faith in the electoral process.

1.10pm: TMC’s Partha Chatterjee says there are minor incidents taking place, no major incident has been reported. “Administration is active in places where such clashes have taken place. Voting is being conducted peaceful. I strongly condemn the attack on journalists,” the TMC leader tells ANI.

12.55pm: Union minister and BJP leader Babul Supriyo says he is not surprised by the violence in West Bengal panchayat elections. “Bengal government is a shameless govt, you cannot expect them to follow any kind of constitutional behaviour. I demand President’s Rule in WB,” Supriyo tells ANI.

12.41pm: CPM alleges a party activist and his wife died when a group of miscreants, allegedly backed by the Trinamool Congress, burnt their house in South 24 Parganas district’s Namkhana. The police confirmed that the couple died in the fire but said the cause is still to be ascertained.

12.13pm: 26.28% voter turnout has been recorded till 11am in West Bengal panchayat polls.

12.12pm: Five journalists have been injured in violence following alleged booth capturing in Birpara allegedly by Trinamool workers, ANI reports.

12.01pm: Twenty-seven-year-old Sanjit Pramanik in Santipur of Nadia district dies of bullet injuries received during clashes. The death toll in Monday’s poll-related violence rises to three.

11.57am: BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi calls violence in Bengal rural polls “highly condemnable & deplorable”. “It signifies that culture of political violence under TMC has engulfed entire West Bengal and it is an alarming sign for democracy,” the BJP leader tells ANI.

11.43am: Two deaths have been reported in North 24 Parganas district due to violence. Taibur Gayen was killed and two others injured after crude bombs were hurled at them allegedly by TMC supporters at Amdanga. CPI(M) MLA Tanmay Bhttacharya claims Gayen was their party supporter.

In Kultali, a Trinamool Congress supporter Ariful Gazi was shot dead when he was going to a booth allegedly by SUCI supporters.

11.20am: In Sujapur of Malda district, clashes break out between the supporters of the Congress and the Trinamool Congress after the husband of a Congress candidate was allegedly attacked. He has been admitted to Malda Medical College and Hospital.

11.15am: In a booth in Okhabari in Munsirhat of Cooch Behar district, the presiding officer leaves the centre by 10am since all the votes were polled by 9. 30am amid violence. However, the police intervened and sent the team back to the centre.

11am: In North 24 Parganas, the BJP accused the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) of letting loose a reign of terror in several parts of the district, especially in Amdanga area. Senior minister Jyotipriyo Mullick denied the involvement of the TMC in the incident and accused BJP of terrorising the voters.

10.56am: A 102-year-old woman casts her vote at a polling booth in Dantan area of West Midnapore.

10.55am: CPI(M) leader Tanmay Bhattacharya says the state election commissioner was aware that violence will take place. “But he did not insist on deployment of central forces. Instead, he told the Calcutta high court that the state police will be able to maintain law and order,” says CPI(M) leader.

10.51am: In Santipur of Nadia, villagers set on fire 11 motorcycles on which youths came to allegedly stir violence.

10.50am: In a pond close to a booth in Rampur Alokmala Primary School in South 24 Parganas, ballot papers are seen floating in the water. Police did not find voters or representatives of political parties inside the booth.

Ballot papers are floating in a pond after a clash broke out between TMC and BJP supporters in Murshidabad. (ANI/Twitter)
Ballot papers are floating in a pond after a clash broke out between TMC and BJP supporters in Murshidabad. (ANI/Twitter)

10.45am: State election commission officials says voting has been stopped in a booth in Shikarpur in Jalpaiguri district where ballot boxes were allegedly set on fire.

10.24am: We have not witnessed unfair practices in Bengal on such a scale since 1972, says Biswanath Chakraborty, a professor of political science at the Rabindra Bharati University.

10.10am: At Bikalchak of Keshpur in West Midnapore district, a teenager girl is hit by an arrow and has been sent to a hospital.

10.02am: Supporters of Congress and ruling Trinamool Congress clash in Ratua of Malda. Congress supporters alleged that Trinamool supporters captured booths.

9.55am: The state election commission seeks a report from the district magistrate of Cooch Behar after reports of violence at pooling booths.

9.54am: Bengal development minister Rabindranath Ghosh denied he assaulted a BJP leader in a Natabari booth as reported by some TV channels. “The youth, a BJP agent, was trying to run away with the ballot box. I was passing by the way, saw a crowd and went close. I intervened but I did not assault anybody,” says Ghosh.

9.50am: Violence has been reported in Bhangar, where a media vehicle has been torched in and a camera broken. Journalists are not allowed to enter the area, reports ANI.

9.48am: In Pashkura of East Midnapore district, a youth holding a pistol in the air is seen inside a booth roaming in front of a policeman carrying a gun who was standing motionless. The youth has his face covered with a piece of cloth.

9.45am: A man is seen pouring water in a ballot box in a booth of Patharghata in Rajarhat.

In Jalpaiguri, ballot boxes containing ballot papers are set on fire.

9.35am: In the first two hours, overall 12.2% polling was reported in Bengal. The highest percentage of polling was reported in Birbhum district. The Trinamool Congress has won 42 of the zilla parishad uncontested that witnessed a record by the ruling Trinmaool Congress ‘winning’ all 42 of the zilla parishad seats without a contest.

9.30am: Clashes between two groups in Birpara, ANI tweets.

9.28am: TV channels air footage showing north Bengal development minister Rabindranath Ghosh slapping a BJP polling agent in a booth in Natabari of the district.

9.22am: In a booth in Bodo Khotimali of Dinhata in Cooch Behar district, there were reports that 100% polling was completed by 8 am.

9.20am: Twenty people have been injured in a clash in Cooch Behar, ANI reports.

9.10am: BJP leader Dipan Pramanik says the Trinamool Congress workers are jamming booths in different areas of Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and North Dinajpur districts. “We are trying to contact police superintendent and district magistrate, but they are not picking up phones,” alleges Pramanik, a resident of Jalpaiguri district.

8.47am: Violence has been reported in Keshpur of West Midnapore district.

8.45am: Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh says the incidents of violence are largely reported from south Bengal. North Bengal is relatively peaceful.

8.40am: A large police contingent fires tear gas shells to disperse trouble mongers in Bhangar.

8.38am: TV channels air footage of clashes between two groups of people inside a booth in a school of Uttar Gazipur village in South 24 Parganas.

8.35am: A Congress candidate sustains injuries in Chapatala of Deganga in North 24 Parganas district.

8.33am: Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh reacts to minister’s allegations. “If so many people came from Bangladesh, why did the administration fail to catch a few of them?” says Ghosh.

8.30am: Bengal food minister alleges BJP has brought in hundreds of people from Bangladesh to unleash violence on the polling day. His allegation comes in connection with the storming of a booth in Bagda of North 24 Parganas district early in the morning by dozens of outsiders.

“About 100 people from Bangladesh led by BJP leaders such as Kartik Ghosh and Ganesh Ghosh stormed a polling station in Amduk village. Villagers We had information that BJP brought a lot of people to unleash violence ,” Trinamool MLA and food minister Jyotipriyo Mullick.

8.15am: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee urges people and political parties to not pay heed to canards and “fake videos” and participate peacefully in the panchayat elections.

8.02am: In Suktabari area of Cooch Behar district, a woman voter was injured and taken to a hospital when she was caught in a clash between supporters of Trinamool and an independent candidate.

In most areas, disgruntled local Trinamool Congress leaders, who were denied tickets for the elections, are contesting as independent candidates.

8am: In Bagda of North 24 Parganas district, about 15 men allegedly stormed a booth on Sunday night and began stamping ballot papers stored there.

Villagers caught some of them and beat them up till the police came and sent them to a hospital. Villagers claim when they confronted the group, they tried to flee by hurling crude bombs.

7.52am: As many as 1,54,500 policemen, including Bengal police, civic volunteers and cops from the Sikkim, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have been deployed to ensure peaceful voting. Police have sealed the state’s border with Jharkhand.

7.50am: Opposition parties in West Bengal are banking on social media to highlight violence which they fear could mar the crucial three-tier Bengal panchayat polls on Monday.

7.45am: Some visuals from a polling station in Cooch Behar.

7.15am: Long queues are seen outside booths right from 6 am. Many of them were women, who planned to cast their votes before returning to attend to domestic chores. Some women also carry children on their laps.

7.10am: Voters stand in a queue outside a polling booth in Jalpaiguri’s Ashighar, with umbrellas in their hands, to cast their vote.

7am: Polling begins for 38,529 seats in the three-tier panchayat system.

* Following the death of a land agitator at Bhangar near Kolkata last Friday, a BJP supporter whose wife is contesting the elections in West Midnapore district was attacked on Saturday night with sharp-edged and blunt weapons. Manua Hansda died on Sunday morning. With this, the death toll in the run-up to the elections reached 16.

* Violence was reported from the districts of East Midnapore, Bankura, Hooghly and Malda. In most cases, the TMC was accused of causing it while in some cases, supporters of the ruling party bore the brunt of the violence as well.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2022